John L. Sullivan was one of four children in an Irish Catholic family raised on Chicago’s South Side. He met Rita (Zandstra) Sullivan at Fenger High School and the high school sweethearts married in 1950.
Sullivan served during the Korean War with the U. S. Navy. During their early married years, Sullivan worked as a claim agent for the New York Central Railroad. The couple then bought a home in Calumet City in 1955.
Sullivan became friends with a couple of Calumet City police officers, who inspired him to become a police officer, his wife said. A couple years later he became a part-time officer and then he joined the department full-time. He served in several capacities during his 32 year career, including as a detective and assistant chief, before retiring as police chief in 1988.
The Sullivans raised eight children, four boys and four girls, in Calumet City with all attending St. Victor’s School. Sullivan was active at St. Victor Parish while the couple lived in Calumet City. The couple relocated to Largo, Florida in 1989.
“He liked keeping in touch with old friends,” said his wife, adding that several friends and family members would visit them in Florida. He also kept in touch with friends via the Internet.
Rita Sullivan said that her husband very much liked police work, especially the administrative role. “He liked it very much and was very good at it,” she said.
“He was straight-forward, honest and caring,” Rita said of her husband of 63 years. “He was always there. No matter what, in good times or bad times, he was always there and he was a good friend to everybody.”